(RxWiki News) It's almost an unspoken rule of Thanksgiving — you throw all dietary caution to the wind and eat way too much. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can still enjoy yourself, eat plenty and be healthy.
A few simple changes and substitutions around the Thanksgiving table can make your meal healthier, said Kim Sasso, a registered dietitian with the Loyola University Health System in Maywood, IL.
Thinking of skipping breakfast and lunch to save room for the Thanksgiving feast? Don't, Sasso said.
"Eat breakfast and lunch so you avoid overeating during the traditional Thanksgiving dinner," she said in a press release. "If you save your appetite for the big meal, you will likely eat more and experience the 'food coma' many complain about."
And it's not just about when you eat — it's also about what you eat, Sasso said. Focus on the foods you really only eat around the holidays — the ones that get your mouth watering when you think about Thanksgiving.
Laila Tabatabai, MD, an endocrinologist with Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, noted in a press release that focusing on a few holiday foods is also a useful tip for people with diabetes.
"Try to eat two or three special things that you only see during the holiday season like grandma's dressing or your aunt's special dessert and avoid sampling everything," Dr. Tabatabai said. "If you have to bring a dish, fix something healthy that you like. This way you know there will be at least one healthy thing for you to eat."
Another tip that works for anyone and can be particularly helpful for people with diabetes is to skip the "white" carbohydrates. Dr. Tabatabai said to substitute whole grains, brown rice and other vegetables for pasta, bread, white rice and potatoes. Changes like this can help keep blood sugar in check — a particularly important concern for people with diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which patients don't produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. In type 2 diabetes — the more common type — patients produce insulin, but the body doesn't process it properly.
Sasso recommends saving calories where you can, but you don't have to give up the chance to taste your holiday favorites.
"Three slices of dessert will not taste as good or be as appreciated as three small sampling portions," she said. "And feel free to skip the crust when eating pie or big dollop of ice cream or whipped topping to save calories."
When it comes to Thanksgiving foods, Sasso sees the glass (or plate) half full. Many Thanksgiving favorites — such as green bean casserole — are loaded with vegetables.
"Vitamins and minerals are loaded in produce and you will benefit from hunger-filling fiber," she said. "Eating vegetables doused in cream sauce and butter is better than not eating any at all."